STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 13, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Active father figures play a key role in reducing behavior problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, according to a review published in the February issue of the peer-reviewed journal Acta Paediatrica.
Swedish researchers also found that regular positive contact reduces criminal behavior among children in low-income families and enhances cognitive skills like intelligence, reasoning and language development. Children who lived with both a mother and father figure also had less behavioural problems than those who just lived with their mother.
The researchers are urging healthcare professionals to increase fathers’ involvement in their children’s healthcare and calling on policy makers to ensure that fathers have the chance to play an active role in their upbringing.
The review looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007, covering 22,300 individual sets of data from 16 studies. 18 of the 24 papers also covered the social economic status of the families studied.
“Our detailed 20-year review shows that overall, children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure” says Dr Anna Sarkadi from the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Uppsala University, Sweden.
“For example, we found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes.
“Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16.”
However, the authors point out that it is not possible to conclude what type of engagement the father figure needs to provide to produce positive effects. “The studies show that it can range from talking and sharing activities to playing an active role in the child’s day-to-day care.”
Governments and employers also have an important role to play in ensuring that men can spend quality time with their offspring, stress the authors. “Public policy has the potential to facilitate or create barriers to fathers spending time with their children during the crucial years of early development” says Dr. Sarkadi.
“Unfortunately current institutional policies in most countries do not support the increased involvement of fathers in child rearing. Paid parental leave for fathers and employers sympathetic to fathers staying at home with sick children is still a dream in most countries.
“We hope that this review will add to the body of evidence that shows that enlightened father-friendly policies can make a major contribution to society in the long run, by producing well-adjusted children and reducing major problems like crime and antisocial behaviour.”